US: Wall Street pulls off a rare four-day winning streak

[NEW YORK] Wall Street ended higher on Friday after employment data allayed investors' concerns about a sluggish economy without bolstering fears of an imminent interest rate hike.

It was the first time since October that the S&P 500 has enjoyed a four-session winning streak. And for the first time since early January, the Dow Jones industrial average rose above the 17,000 mark while the S&P 500 ended a fraction below 2,000, levels that some traders see as psychologically important.

The gains followed a report that nonfarm payrolls increased by 242,000 jobs last month. However, lower wages and hours kept a lid on inflation, a key factor as the Federal Reserve weighs when to next raise US interest rates.

"This number shows the economy is strong and the Fed's got time. It doesn't have to run off the sidelines and get involved in raising rates," said John Brady, managing director at R.J. O'Brien & Associates in Chicago.

Traders still see the odds overwhelmingly against a rate hike at the Fed's meeting on March 15-16, although some see potential for an increase in June.

Mostly steady gains in recent weeks have left the S&P 500 down 2 per cent in 2016 after its worst January since 2009.

"Expectations went too far on a recession expectation. That's why the market has rallied in the past two weeks. It's pricing out a chance of a recession," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.37 per cent, to end at 17,006.77 points. The S&P 500 gained 0.33 per cent to 1,999.99, closing above its 100-day moving average for the first time this year.

The Nasdaq Composite added 0.2 per cent to 4,717.02.

For the week, the Dow rose 2.2 per cent, the S&P added 2.7 per cent and the Nasdaq increased 2.8 per cent.

On Friday, seven of the 10 S&P sectors rose, led by a 1.18-per cent rise in the materials sector.

Apple rose 1.49 per cent, the strongest positive influence on the S&P 500.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise jumped 13.53 per cent after reporting better-than-expected results.

H & R Block fell 15.62 per cent after the tax preparer reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.

Carmike Cinemas jumped 16.49 per cent after AMC Entertainment said it would buy the theater chain for US$1.1 billion, including debt. AMC rose 5.14 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,970 to 1,064. On the Nasdaq, 1,678 issues rose and 1,140 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 17 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 29 lows.

Volume hit 10.3 billion shares, above the daily average of 8.7 billion in the past 20 sessions.


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